I was one of those weird kids. I had parties with my imaginary friend. I did my sister’s homework so we could play sooner. (She was in kindergarten and had to do a worksheet on the letter “F.” We both got in trouble, then I gave her the further punishment of doing extra homework till it was good enough to pass for my work. The really sad part was she did it.) I stayed up nights as an 8-year-old worrying about getting into college.
But, perhaps weirdest of all, I ate everything. I would go out to the garden, pick a tomato, and eat it like an apple. As a 6-year-old, I ordered a lobster, cleaned it, and polished it off as the waitstaff watched on in awe. I liked green beans, and broccoli, and zucchini. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize this isn’t the norm. Pop culture and kids’ menus tell us that kids should be eating chicken nuggets and pasta with butter. Maybe, just maybe, you can sneak in applesauce as a side instead of french fries. Even Jessica Seinfeld, who touts the importance of healthy eating, does so by tricking children. But I digress.
Anyway, for me, adding cauliflower to my macaroni and cheese wasn’t a way to eat more vegetables; it was a way to eat less cheese. Not in a health-obsessed “cheese is bad for you” way, but in a “I don’t really like much cheese” way. In a Caprese Salad, I will gladly trade my mozzarella for extra tomatoes. To this day, I’d be fine with cheese-less nachos. It took until my teenage years before I stopped trying to peel the cheese off of my pizza. This mac and cheese, though, is perfect for me. It has the thick and creamy mouth feel of the traditional dish, so it’s deceptive. And with the ability to add more cheese on top, it’s the perfect compromise for my husband and me (he’s the one who will always take my extra cheese and give me his veggies in return).
So, whether you’re looking for a creamy but not cheesy dish, a lightened up version of a classic, or a way to trick your children into eating their veggies (although, again, I implore you to just tell them what they are eating), this is the recipe for you!
Cauliflower Macaroni and Cheese
- 30 oz frozen cauliflower florets
- 1 lb brown rice pasta
- 1 qt vegetable stock
- 1 cup grated cheese (I used cheddar)
- 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
- Black Pepper, to taste
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Pre-heat the oven to 400 F, bring a large pot of water to a boil, and bring the stock to a very light simmer. Once the water is boiling boiling, salt the water generously and add the cauliflower. Cook for about 20-25 minutes at a boil, until very tender. Using a slotted spoon, scoop out the cauliflower and put it into a colander.
- Make sure the water is still at a boil, and add the pasta. Cook the pasta till it’s pre-al dente; it will continue cooking in the oven. Once the pasta is cooked, drain it.
- While the pasta is cooking, combine the remaining ingredients in a food processor or blender, starting with about 3 cups of the liquid and adding more as necessary. Blend until it is smooth and creamy, and no pieces of cauliflower are left. Note: Depending on the size of your food processor, you may want to do this in batches.
- Toss the pasta and cheese sauce together, and pour into a greased 9×13 glass baking dish. Top with more cheese (if desired), and bake for 15-20 minutes until bubbles are starting to form along the sides of the pan.